It’s been almost a year since I left my role at Microsoft as Director of Product Management for Visual Studio. Ever since I left, I’ve had lots of people asking what I am working on now, and I’ve been pretty quiet about it (the running joke is that I am the VP of Black Ops). The truth is that my team and I have been very busy solving what we believe to be one of the biggest challenges facing developers today and building a new product that I believe will dramatically reduce the barrier to entry for developers wanting to build applications that run natively on mobile devices.
I firmly believe that mobile devices are the single biggest opportunity today for developers. Cell phones are ubiquitous, and smartphones are becoming so common place, it’s surprising when someone doesn’t have one. According to the March 2012 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share from comScore 234 million Americans age 13 and older used mobile devices, and more than 106 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones. That’s roughly one-third of the US population, and if you are anything like me, your smartphone is the only computing device you have with you at all times, from the time you wake up, to the time you go to bed. While a smartphone (or tablet) may not be your primary productivity device, it is arguably your primary device –the only one you always have within reach.
From a developer’s perspective, this represents a huge opportunity. While lots of developers have already entered the mobile device development arena, only a fraction of the entire developer population is actively doing development for mobile platforms. As businesses embrace mobile devices and start to extend their line-of-business applications, business-to-business applications and direct to consumer applications, more and more developers will have to transition into mobile platform developers.
While mobile platforms are one of the biggest opportunities for developers, they are also one of the biggest challenges for developers. Like the browser-wars of the 90’s, the mobile platform arena is hugely challenging. Every mobile platform provider has their own SDKs, uses a different programming language, and different tools. In fact, if you want to target all of the mobile platforms out there, you need multiple development machines—one for Mac OS X and one for Windows (at the very least you need a Mac and a BootCamp image of Windows). To build one app that runs natively on all platforms requires significant duplication of effort—essentially building and rebuilding the same app on different platforms. None of the platform providers are eager to solve this problem for you—they don’t make developer tools, they make platform development tools.
When I was at Microsoft, my job was to ensure Microsoft built the best platform development tools possible As a result we created awesome tools for development on the various Windows platforms (client, server and phone). What we didn’t do was build great developer tools—tools that made developing applications easier and more enjoyable regardless of what platform was being targeted. The only way to do that in the Developer Division would be to secede from Microsoft and become an independent software vendor (ISV)…and DevDiv would be a big one. Since that wasn’t going to happen I decided that it was time to find an ISV that had the ability to create great development tools regardless of platform. That quest led me to Telerik, where my team and I have been doing just that.
I’d like to invite you to join the Icenium private beta. Icenium is a work in progress (hence the private beta) and steadily becoming the product that I envisioned—a development tool that makes building applications easier and more enjoyable regardless of platform. With Icenium, we intent to build the worlds first Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE) that combines the power and flexibility of the cloud with the convenience of a local coding environment to massively eliminate the complexity of building cross-platform mobile applications. In its current beta state Icenium enables you to build applications for Apple iOS and Google Android, and more platforms will follow. My team and I are very excited about this beta, and we are looking forward to getting your feedback.